Case Caption: Jaydee Brathwaite v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2016-0040Date: 07/20/2017Author: Swan, Ive Arlington Citation: Summary:

The judgment and commitment finding a defendant guilty on a plea of no contest to one count of first-degree assault is affirmed. In order for a guilty or nolo contendere plea to comply with the requirements of the Due Process Clause, it must be knowing, voluntary and intelligent. The argument that this plea was not voluntary because it was not accomplished with assistance of counsel is belied by the trial court record. While the hearing was underway defendant converted his plea from "guilty" to "no-contest," but the record demonstrates that trial counsel then requested another opportunity to confer with the client, which the court allowed. Defendant properly entered the plea with consultation and advice from counsel. The court's extensive colloquy with the defendant shows that neither his medications nor his mental health impinged upon his capacity to enter a voluntary plea. The trial court continually assessed defendant's understanding of the plea proceedings, engaging him in an extensive plea colloquy regarding the terms of the plea agreement, the factual basis for the plea, the direct consequences of the plea, and the maximum sentence to which he was exposed. Defendant indicated that he understood the plea offer, affirmed that his lawyer had explained the consequences of his plea, and that he was satisfied with the legal representation he had received. The record here does not remotely support the claims that defendant was confused about the proceedings. The claim that defendant's plea was involuntary because he purportedly denied having committed a crime is also unavailing. He unambiguously stated that he assaulted the victim. Defendant was aware of the nature of the proceedings and the consequences of his plea, and he entered a knowing, voluntary and intelligent plea of no contest. The argument for reduction of this defendant's sentence is also without merit. The court was well aware of the defendant's mental health history, and his sentence precisely following the negotiated plea agreement, and within statutory limits, did constitute an abuse of discretion. The Superior Court's July 22, 2016 judgment and commitment is affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion